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Lack of Wheelchair Ramp Creates Awkward Situation at Lakeland City Commission Debate

October 16, 2013
Source: The Ledger, FL

Eddie Hall sat separate from his fellow [Lakeland, Florida] City Commission candidates Wednesday, but it wasn't planned.

In a way, it was a visual representation for his candidacy.

During the lunchtime debate, Hall, [who has paraplegia], touted the need for more diversity in the city and said he's been a driver in the community for additional benefits for [those with disabilities]. He is running against three other candidates for the city's at-large seat.

When the candidates were called to the dais at Imperial Swan, there wasn't a ramp for Hall, and no one offered to move the debate to the floor level.

J. Lenora Bresler, programs chairwoman for National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), helped organize the debate.

"It was simply my fault," Bresler said later. "I was not aware he was handicapped."

Bresler said she and other organizers attempted to find a ramp at the hotel before the debate started.

Hall said he didn't want the organizers, NAWBO and American Business Women's Association, to look bad, but he said something should have been done before the debate.

Hall said he is accustomed to being treated differently.

"There needs to be a change for disabled awareness in the city," Hall said.

None of the candidates offered to sit with Hall [or] brought up the situation during the debate, which lasted about an hour. Most said afterward it was an awkward situation.

"I felt bad," Lakeland Mayor Gow Fields said. "I don't know if they knew about it."

Fields' opponent for mayor, City Commissioner Howard Wiggs, said it would have been better if they had all been sitting on the same level.

Editors note: The full article continues online for two more pages.

Link: Go to website for News Source

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